Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid (raidergirl3)

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson

I haven't laughed out loud while reading a book in quite a while, but Bryson certainly tickled my funny bone with this book. It says memoir, but it is just as much a look at the good old days, the 1950s in America. Bryson makes the argument that the 1950s in Des Moines, Iowa were the best time ever! I loved how Bryson used the exaggerated memory of youth to describe events - there were 800 kids outside, everyday. Part of it is how we always exaggerate when remembering our youth - the scab he nurtured that was one and three quarters inches thick-, so maybe that's why the old days were the best times.

Bryson alternates between his childhood and family, amusingly exaggerated, with the detailed research I associate with Bryson to explain America during times - the economy, the world, Communism and the threat of atomic bombs, and the role of farming in Iowa. He sneaked facts and information into his narrative and left me with an understanding of how we came from the good old days, with the slower pace and easier life, to the fast paced hectic life now.

I grew up in the 1970s and life certainly had changed, but I can see the same relative amount of change today from my childhood. I felt many parallels to Bryson's life: I too led a very happy childhood, nothing traumatic ever happened, I spent the summer outdoors with 800 other neighbourhood children, and the Saturday afternoon matinee was still going on in the 1970s. This was a great read and lots of fun, but also an informative look at how America has changed since 1951.

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